Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status. Only asylum seekers from southern Somalia are granted prima facie status. All other asylum claims must be reviewed by the National Eligibility Commission, which falls under the Ministry of Interior and consists of UNHCR and ONARS staff. The National Eligibility Commission met twice during the year but did not review any asylum claims.
The country hosted approximately 22,000 refugees and asylum seekers as a result of drought, famine, and fighting between al-Shabaab and the former Transitional Federal Government in south and central Somalia.
During the year approximately 400 Somalis arrived in the country each month, representing a major decrease from 2011, when famine brought in 800 per month.
In the past, most new refugees arrived at the Ali Addeh camp, which reached maximum capacity several years ago. As a result, the UNHCR and ONARS reopened a second camp at Holl-Holl to reduce congestion in Ali Addeh. A validation census of refugees in existing camps and in the city identified those who arrived after 2009 for relocation to the new camp. Organizational difficulties and resource constraints prevented ONARS and the UNHCR from providing adequate service to refugees, including the prompt processing of refugee claims.
The government allowed the UNHCR to screen and resettle Eritrean detainees imprisoned at Nagad Detention Facility. Due to the unresolved 2008 conflict between Djibouti and Eritrea and the mandatory military conscription policy of the Eritrean government, Djibouti considered Eritrean detainees as deserters from the Eritrean military rather than refugees, and authorities deported most detainees within 24 hours of arrest. An August riot at Nagad resulted in injury to 25 detainees and six police officers (see section 1.c.).
Refoulement: The government did not routinely grant refugee or asylum status to groups other than southern Somalis, and a backlog in refugee status determinations put individuals waiting for their screening at risk of expulsion to countries where they might be threatened. There were occasional cases in which the government returned migrants to their home country without the benefit of a refugee status determination. Most of these cases involved Ethiopian nationals, whom government officials categorically identified as economic migrants. The government, working with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the ICRC, continued its efforts to differentiate refugees from illegal immigrants; however, a lack of staff and other resources limited the success of the vetting, particularly in light of the record number of migrants transiting the country en route to Yemen.
Refugee Abuse: There were only three police officers and no permanent courts to protect both refugee camps and their surrounding communities; impunity was a problem. Whether abuse or attacks were perpetrated by other refugees, members of neighboring communities, local officials, or the police, the nearly 22,000 refugees in camps had little redress. Camp staff reported numerous unsubstantiated accusations of abuse by local officials. The government promised to send a magistrate each month to the largest camp, Ali Addeh, to hear the backlog of pending cases, but such visits were sporadic.
The government occasionally detained and deported large numbers of illegal migrants. The government gave these migrants the opportunity to claim refugee status, and those who did were referred to the National Eligibility Commission to receive a status determination. However, the commission had not functioned for several years, resulting in a backlog of individuals at risk of expulsion.
Employment: Scarce resources and employment opportunities limited overall opportunities for the local integration of refugees. Documented refugees were permitted to work, and many (especially women) did so in low-wage jobs such as house cleaning, babysitting, or construction. There was little recourse to challenge poor working conditions or ensure fair payment for labor. Refugees had access to primary schools in the camps where instruction was in English and Somali. They were eligible to attend French-language public secondary school outside the camps but rarely did so because of the language barrier. A limited number of spots in public Somali-language technical schools became available to refugees.
Access to Basic Services: The Ali Addeh camp was overcrowded, and basic services such as potable water were inadequate. The Holl-Holl camp had adequate water, but other services, such as vocational training, were poor. The transfer of refugees from Ali Addeh camp to Holl-Holl camp, which was not crowded, continued at year’s end. In January the UNHCR changed health-care service providers in the camps to improve basic medical services.
Temporary Protection: During the year the government provided temporary protection to a limited number of individuals who may not qualify as refugees. However, authorities jailed illegal migrants identified as economic migrants attempting to transit the country en route to Yemen and returned them to their countries of origin. The government worked with IOM to provide adequate health services to these migrants while they awaited deportation.